Sunday, August 9, 2009

A visit with cousin Dana and wife Huei-Lan

On Saturday, I was so excited to meet Huei Lan, the new Taiwanese wife of Dana, my 2nd-cousin-once-removed. For those who don't understand 1st, 2nd and 3rd cousins once and twice removed, here's how Dana and I are related: His mother Janet and my grandma Leslie were first cousins. So Dana and my mom were 2nd cousins. I'm one generation below, so he's my second cousin once-removed. Janet and I are first-cousins-twice-removed. But in reality, I'm actually quite close -- not so removed -- to her. Maya also appreciated her exuberant personality and the packages that arrived by mail for birthdays and hanukah.

Janet lives in New Jersey, just across the bridge from Manhattan and used to visit frequently until recent health problems. She especially liked to prepare a huge Passover feast in Dana's condo in Newark, CA, about an hour away from here. I've been to Dana's place many times, but he hadn't been to Santa Cruz for 10 years, not since Maya was a toddler.

He's been promising to bring Huei-Lan for a visit, ever since they met on an internet dating site 6 years ago. You might think internet relationships are bound to fail, but this one is a winner. Huei Lan has a PhD and is teaching journalism at the university in Tapei. Her English is excellent due in part to two years of graduate studies in England. She's traveled to about 10 countries already and is eager to see more. We really hit it off, as she admired my antique furnishings, even the old Wedgewood gas stove, and wondered about shipping one to her country. She asked Andre to take a picture of us in front of our house, which she fell in love with at first sight. She told Dana that if they live in the U.S. together, she would love a house like mine. Even though his mother in NJ doesn't like the idea, most likely Dana will accept a teaching job in Taiwan, at the university where Huei teaches.

I shared a video of old Bronstein home movies, with a small snippet of Dana's mother at a family reunion around 1959. My mom was a teenager then, his mother a bit older. We called Janet in NJ as a surprise, since she's always nagging Dana to come visit. We asked her about the family reunion and she guessed -- correctly -- that she was wearing a green dress. She knew because she didn't have many dresses in those days. That one must have been very special. Janet also loves antiques and family history. I was happy to tell her that Huei shares these interests.

It was a gorgeous day, so we walked down the wharf to watch the seals lounging around the piers and on a small dock. We enjoyed some ice cold drinks and clam chowder at a lively outdoor cafe, watching the sail boats drift by. Afterwards we made our way through a very crowded Boardwalk. The hot, sunny weekend brings half of San Jose "over the hill." Also, as Dana guessed, it could be the economy. People are staying closer to home and the Boardwalk is admission-free.

We walked back along the San Lorenzo River levee and then window-shopped and people-watched on Pacific Avenue, our main street. The street musicians and colorful Santa Cruz characters were out in full force. Huei kept commenting on what a perfect location I live in. She said that in Taiwan you have to be rich to live so close to the seaside.

Andre got to meet them briefly before he left for work at Safeway. By the time he got back last night, they had already left, but I was able to share their romantic wedding video with him. Even though Dana and Huei just registered their wedding in Taipei at city hall, they signed up for a package deal with a company that supplies wedding outfits, does the make-up, hair and a 1-hour photo session, then presents you with a beautiful slide-show on DVD, accompanied by the music of your choice. What a great idea!

I hope it won't be 10 more years before they come back to visit. Or maybe I'll be going to Taiwan to visit them.

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